Winter is coming! Already the wind is cool and the nights are shorter. Winter can be tough but it’s definitely doable and can even be FUN! I promise! You just need to be prepared (properly dressed!) and know where to go and what to do.
Here is a huge list of suggestions for you to not only fill your frigid winter weekends but explore Montreal, go on an adventure and appreciate our colder season.
A few things to keep in mind:
Winter Activities in Montreal and the surrounding areas:
Putting Edge (Downtown & Laval) – Glow in the dark mini golf. It’s for ages 5 & up.
Le REC Room/Espace REC (TMR) – Classes and open play in a huge open space. Tons of room for your kids to run around and get out their energy.
Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal (Quartier des Spectacles) – Family Sundays are an excellent introduction to the museum and geared at ages four and over. A 30-minute tour of the museum is accompanied by a workshop activity.
Montreal Science Centre (Old Montreal) – This winter the centre is hosting an immersive dinosaur experience (October 5 – March 20, 2016) with 14 roaring full-sized dinosaurs. Wowzers. Talk about a winner with the kiddo. Also fun is Clic!, a discovery space geared for 4-7 year olds and Science 26, which consists of interactive science experiments for the whole family.
Children’s Museum of Laval (Laval) – This place is fantastic for kiddos and my post gives a great round up of what it’s about and what’s great about it. Perfect for the under 5 crew.
IMAX (Old Montreal) – Located within the Montreal Science Centre, an IMAX movie is pretty darn cool for everyone. They also tend to be a bit shorter (those listed at the time of writing were 40 minutes & 45 minutes) which is great for short attention spans. This can be done on it’s own or in conjunction with a visit to the Sciene Centre. Please note that IMAX films are extremely loud, and earplugs would be a good idea.
Watch Airplanes – Not exactly a winter activity, but still a good idea to fill some time. This will obviously be more interesting to kids who are into airplanes but I think if you choose a good vantage point it could be pretty fun for anyone. According to this website the best spot is the dead end of Pitfield Street.
Supermarket Trip – Take your kids to the supermarket. Most kids love riding around with mom or dad at eye level with them in the cart and they can either point out the fruit and vegetables, or you can teach them about it. Bonus points for supermarkets with indoor attached parking like Adonis downtown.
Montreal Museum of Fine Art (Downtown) – Did you know this is Montreal’s largest museum and one of the most prominent in Canada? Neither did I, but I’m pretty impressed. Check before hand to see what’s on and family activities. If you are taking part in the Studios Art & Education de la Chenelière (workshops and Family Lounge) the museum is free and you will receive a dated pass. It’s free for the public the last Sunday of every month.
Fairmount vs St Viateur – This is the classic bagel showdown and a winter’s day with nothing to do offers a nice opportunity to collect the bagels, walk from one shop to the next (which Google says is a 9 minute walk) and take your time savouring the warm bread.
Hot Chocolate – Spend the morning sipping hot chocolate while the snow blows outside. Cacao 70 looks like the ultimate indulgence with a chocolate menu and has an amazing looking (chocolate-y) brunch.
Biodome (Olympic Park) – There are so many reasons why this is the classic winter activity with the kids. See my post here but to sum it up – it’s fascinating for all ages, there’s a tropical zone (perfect for when it’s -40 out) and it’s super kid friendly. There’s even covered parking if you’re into that. Look out for the special activities in the amphitheatre area.
Zoo Ecomuseum (West Island) – Visit deer, foxes and porcupines at this outdoor zoo located on the western tip of the island. They are open everyday except December 25th and over the holidays have special presentations and events. See my posts here and here.
Insectarium (Olympic Park) – Every type of insect imaginable is on view. I’ve never been but heard that kids as young as 18 months have gotten a kick out of this place.
Planetarium (Olympic Park) – This is definitely for older kids. The planetarium requires a lot of reading and listening, and the movies are recommended for 7 and older. The interactive displays require advanced reading and are built in such a way that you have to be quite tall to use them. Just a warning – you may get seasick after their movies, so beware!
Pointe-à-Callière Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History (Old Montreal) – Most of the exhibits are geared for ages 6 and up. For families, your best bet is the Archaeo-Adventure workshop that gives kids a chance to experience a simulated archaeological dig, so they can step into an archaeologist’s shoes and head off to find some authentic remains and artifacts buried in the soil, while discovering all the secrets the past has to reveal. Again, this is probably best for 6 and up along with the Pirates or Privateers exhibit.
Update: I recently went to the museum and although I was advised by the museum’s PR the information about ages above, my 5 year old loved it and I know that when he was there when he was 4 years old he loved it too. And by loved it, I really mean the Pirates or Privateers exhibit which is a giant, interactive pirate ship. This is a bit tricky and off the way to get to. Although I saw a lot of families in the museum, I did not see a lot at this exhibit which leads me to believe they just did not stumble upon it. The rest of the museum wasn’t as much interest to my son but he was wild for this section. Another note, there are a LOT of stairs. There is an elevator and if you want to go to the main section of the exhibits there are ramps, but to really get IN the exhibits (the old buildings) there are a LOT of stairs. I would try to leave the stroller behind or bring a carrier. Last note, if there is a big line up and you are adults only, there is an entrance across the street with an automated ticket machine.
Pâtisserie Kouign Amann – I’ve included this on the list simply because I’ve always wanted to go and never been. And a blustery morning sounds perfect to fill my face with this buttery confections. It sounds like this place is almost always busy and there are only two tables but you can always eat it at the park across the street. Another option is Les Copains d’abords – they have more places to sit and similar goods on offer.
4Cats Art Studio (West Island, Plateau, NDG) – Weekly workshops allow your kid to experiment with paint, crafting and other messy materials. Workshops have to be signed up for in advance, and many are during the weekdays, but it’s still a fun activity for kids. NDG workshops are listed here.
Visit the Mall – Indoor parking at some locations, escalators and elevators with glass fronts are all wondrous to little ones.
Take the metro/bus/train – It’s amazing how fascinating your daily commute can be for little ones. The 51 bus which goes up the mountain is a particular winner.
Movies – From the ages of about two up (depending on your kid) a movie might be a perfect way to spend some time.
iSaute (Laval & Montreal East) – An awesome spot for all ages. Imagine a huge warehouse filled with trampolines and everyone jumping and having an amazing time. If you don’t want your two year old to get jumped on they have a separate area for young kids. AND I see that a Montreal West location is coming soon so keep checking the website.
Pick a Pumpkin/Christmas Tree/Apples – We like Quinn Farms because it’s close and geared to little ones but there is a lot of choice around Montreal. Read posts on my experiences here.
Centaur Theatre (Old Montreal) – Saturday Morning Children’s Theatre occurs on select Saturday mornings throughout the season. Young children and their families get to enjoy affordable theatre in a kid friendly setting. In French there’s also La Maison Théâtre and L’Illusion Théâtres de marionettes.
Chateau Ramzay (Old Montreal) – With the encouragement of their parents, kids in the general vicinity of four and up will enjoy this museum. Objects and displays related to the history of Montreal such as the Iroquois model village, beaver, boat and train models, the first licensed car in the Province and the Salle de Nantes that looks like an 18th Century Princess Ballroom tend to be the big hits with little ones. During the holidays there is a special set of activities including a bread making workshop for the family, New France inhabitant costumes and the chance for a photo session in the authentic setting of the Château.
Cosmodome (Laval) – My little one is a bit too young for this (FAQ’s mention this is geared for ages 7 and up) but I can’t wait until he’s ready to check it out. What kid doesn’t like space and rocket ships. If you can, this is a great bet for kids interested in space and often preferred over the Planetarium for children.
Redpath Museum (Downtown) – Fantastic Sunday afternoon Discovery Workshops can be combined with an informal visit to the galleries of the museum. Discovery Workshops are generally for ages 4-8 years old although younger or older may attend. Dinoman is also present every Sunday to talk about the dinosaurs on display. Closed on Saturday.
TOHU (St-Michel) – Petits bonheurs is a festival especially for kids from ages 0 to 6. It will take place from May 6 – May 15th, 2016. There’s also a ton of other events including children’s shows (see on their calendar). During the holiday season they have Carnival of the Animals, and during March break they have a ton of stuff including Circus Incognitus, Remous Remis and other activities.
McCord Museum (Downtown) – There are tons of options for young families here. Two great permanent exhibits include Montreal – Point of View talks about Montreal objects that bear witness to our cities past and present and Wearing our Identity – The First Peoples Collection which explores the heritage of the First Peoples of Canada. From November 1, 2015 – April 17, 2016 the museum presents Mister Rabbit’s Circus. This is an annual exhibition of some 200 toys designed for children ages 3 to 9. The last Wednesday of each month is a free workshop designed for parents and their children ages 18 months and under to teach traditional crafts in a new and contemporary way. They also have weekend workshops and story time for children ages 3 and up.
Sledding & Skating on Mont-Royal – It’s iconic and beautiful. There’s a large chalet by the lookout point where you can get hot chocolate and warm up.
Skating at the Bonsecours Basin (Old Montreal) – An absolutely beautiful spot to skate.
Swimming (various) – This is always a winner. We especially like the Aquadome in Lasalle and the Côte-St-Luc Aquatic Centre. I’d like to check out Centre Sportif de la Petite Bourgogne which I also heard is great. See my post here.
Montreal Libraries – Libraries are full of activities from story time to reptile shows. Check your local library to see what’s on.
Montreal Children’s Library (Downtown, St-Michel and Little Burgundy) – Three libraries with great story times and activities. (Note: the Atwater Children’s Library has been renamed Vega)
Montréal Beach (Griffintown) – An indoor sandbox that comes complete with sand toys! Only $6 per kid (one adult free). Regular schedule is Sundays from 10am – 12pm (but please check before heading there)
Jeunesses Musicales – There is a huge selection of concerts for young audiences and workshops for young audiences available. Both are held at various places around Montreal, throughout the province or at the JMC House and ages are specified. There are quite a few options for kids ages 3-6. You can use their calendar to search by location. I just put in Montreal and I received a ton of great options.
OSM Children’s Concerts – Introduce your child, ages 5-12, to the symphony with a concert designed specifically for them. There are only three listed for the 2015-2016 season so get your tickets early.mai
Bach Before Bedtime – Not exactly a weekend activity, this is still a wonderful musical experience geared to young audiences and it is only 45 minutes long. Concerts take place on a Tuesday at 4:30. Check website for dates.
Village du Père Noël (Laurentians) – This village is located just north of Montreal and would be a wonderful family outing. It’s aimed for kids 2-8 and during the winter there is an outdoor play area, zip-lines, skating and slides.
Fête des Neiges dates TBA (Park Jean Drapeau) – This is the only event I’ve included as it came highly recommended. More than 25 winter activities await families including skating, zip lines, tubing, ice slides and snow sculpting. Check out this video.
Skating – There are plenty of indoor and outdoor skating rinks around Montreal besides the special ones I’ve listed above.
Sledding – There are many places to go sledding besides the Mount-Royal listed above. Ask around your neighbourhood.
Bowling (various) – Did you know that kids as young as three can bowl? Neither did I, but the people behind popular bowling alleys Quilles G Plus (including the Rose Bowl in NDG) let me know that in general kids three and up can bowl as soon as they can lift the ball. They use a special ramp to roll the ball.
A huge thanks to my dear friend Sarah Stack who offered so many of these suggestions!
Do you have more suggestions for me? Please contact me and let me know!
Photo credits: For all photos which are not personal, please click on photos to see original photo credits.